Practical Solar Energy Advice for Homeowners

Gail the Actuary provides a forum for home owners with experience to offer advice to home owners who are considering solar energy additions.

The questions below were the focus for the responses.

Link: The Oil Drum

1. Is it best to work with someone who both sells and installs solar PV panels? Or is this something that people end up doing themselves, using a variety of vendors?

2. What brands/ types are best?

3. How much maintenance is required?

4. What experiences have people had who purchased solar PV, then moved to another home? Did the addition of solar PV help the resale value?

5. What have buyers experience with battery back-up been? Is a small amount worthwhile, even if a homeowner is on the grid?

6. Are there any particular issues with inverters that readers should be aware of?

7. If you have purchased solar PV, are you generally happy with it?

8. Where does one find good material to read regarding solar PV?

Some interesting links from the post:

Selfishness, Greed, Self Restraint, and Empathy

Here’s a quote that may help us understand why many of us are driven to excess, especially when fear is involved.

Selfish behaviors are reward driven and innate, wired deeply into the survival mechanisms of the primitive brain, and when consistently reinforced, they will run away to greed, with its associated craving for money, food, or power. On the other hand, the self restraint and the empathy for others that are so important in fostering physical and mental health are learned behaviors – largely functions of the new human cortex and thus culturally dependent. These social behaviors are fragile and learned by imitations much as we learn language.

Dr. Peter Whybrow – "American Mania"

via The Oil Drum | I am Human, I’m American, and I’m an Addict….

The Future of Industrial Agriculture

Jeff Vail at the Rhizome blog analyzes the thought-provoking essays at The Oil Drum by Stuart Staniford and Sharon Astyk on the nexus of Peak Oil and agriculture, with Staniford suggesting that peak oil will not result in relocalization of agriculture because the industrialization of agriculture is a more efficient use of energy and is not practicably reversible, and Astyk rebutting that idea. Vail offers a third perspective: that we have insufficient information to reach a conclusion about when energy scarcity will result in relocalization of agriculture, but that we will likely cross this threshold in the not-too-distant future and should prepare accordingly.

Below is Vail’s summary of the arguments on industrial agriculture. Click on any of the links for more detail.

Link: Jeff Vail

A. Why would centralization of agriculture increase efficiency?

1. Economy of place: It is more efficient to grow oranges in Florida than in a heated greenhouse in upstate New York (or, to use the classic example, wine in Portugal than in England).
2. Economy of scale: It is more efficient for one man to grow ten orange trees than ten men to each grow one for a variety of reasons.
3. Specialization of knowledge processes: A contributor to #2 above, but particularly important in the era of increasingly scientific and knowledge intensive farming—farmers can afford to specialize in farming, whereas people who are only part-time farmers cannot to the same degree.
4. Justification for intensive capital expenditure: An industrial farmer can justify the expense of a complex combine harvester that automates processes, whereas a small holder may not be able to. (Stuart Staniford)

B. Why would decentralization of agriculture increase efficiency?

1. Transportation & operation cost: decentralized farming has the potential to require transportation over shorter distances to market than centralized farming, and therefore less embodied energy cost. Likewise, tractors and combines use oil, whereas hoeing and hand weeding do not.
2. Superior suitability for sustainable operation: for now, decentralized agriculture seems more capable of maintaining topsoil and is more adaptable to varying water regimes.
3. Greater resiliency to black swan & gray sway events: decentralized agriculture is less susceptible to terrorism, is more likely to incorporate the biodiversity necessary to overcome disease, and may be more adaptable in the face of global warming.
4. Less exposure to capital cost creep: decentralized agriculture is less dependent on expensive machinery that is subject to increasing cost as the cost of manufacture and raw materials increase. (Sharon Astyk)